This morning I went to see the Imperial War Museum’s new exhibition, Once Upon a Wartime: Classic War Stories for Children which opens tomorrow.
The exhibition is split into five sections – one for each of the books it explores: War Horse by Michael Morpurgo, Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden, The Silver Sword by Ian Serraeillier, The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall and Little Soldier by Bernard Ashley.
Like the books, the exhibition is very emotive, showing conflict through a child’s eyes. There are sad aspects – telling how 250,000 horses died in the First World War, displays of weapons used by child soldiers and tales of displaced families across Europe. But there are also happier moments – a photograph of author Nina Bawden feeding a lamb during her own evacuation and how Robert Westall was inspired to write The Machine Gunners in order to be closer to his son.
Any budding novelists will be interested to see how the authors wrote the books. There’s lots of information about how they developed the stories and there are first drafts, notebooks and even an old typewriter on display.
There are life-sized models of important parts of some of the books – you can look through the cupboards in Hepzibah’s kitchen from Carries War and go inside the secret fortress from The Machine Gunners.
As well as the exhibition, the museum is running a series of events, including a children’s war literature festival in August.
If you’re a fan of any of the books featured in the exhibition or even fancy writing a children’s book yourself, it’s definitely worth a trip to the museum.
Once Upon A Wartime at the Imperial War Museum. 11 Feb-30 Oct 2011.